THE MASCULINITY CONSPIRACY

07: Spirituality cont’d

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Now here’s the tricky bit, but it’s an important revealing as it highlights the sleight of hand or slippage on behalf of the conspiracy between the natural and the artificial. There is a point where values become gendered, but it’s not the point being made by any of the texts I have analyzed here with you. Nurturing, for example, becomes gendered in a man or a woman’s experience of nurturing. By this I mean that men and women live under the conspiracy that treats men and women—via constructions of masculine and feminine—differently.

A man and a woman may experience nurturing in a gendered way because the conspiracy has imposed on them a different relationship with nurturing. In other words, women’s understanding and experience of nurturing is gendered by the conspiracy to be natural and inherent in their biological function of childbirth. Men’s understanding and experience of nurturing is gendered by the conspiracy to be important but secondary to their social function of providing. It is the experience and conspiratorial context of nurturing that is gendered, not the value of nurturing itself. This is a really important distinction to keep in mind.

Another important distinction to keep in mind is that notion of balance and complementarity inherent in Fox’s writing. This is the same note of caution made in the previous chapter about the Androgyne archetype, which while being an initially optimistic combination of “male strength and competence” and “female sensitivity and feeling” only ever consolidates the original conspiratorial categories of “male strength and competence” and “female sensitivity and feeling.” Fox is a great example of many men I meet who genuinely want to get away from the kinds of conspiratorial masculinity this book is all about, but who remain trapped in conspiratorial binaries.

Thinking in relation to conspiratorial models of gender, even in order to mitigate then, usually results in the perpetuation of those binaries. As the feminist philosopher Judith Butler states in her book Undoing Gender, “to be not quite masculine or not quite feminine is still to be understood exclusively in terms of one’s relationship to the ‘quite masculine’ and the ‘quite feminine.’” If you do not like the way masculinity is defined by the conspiracy, do not look to balance it with the way femininity is defined by the conspiracy: reject both.

So to recap, there are various problems with the way spirituality is mobilized by the conspiracy:

  • The assertion that Christianity is being “feminized” is really a symptom of anxiety about the loss of male power within this particular faith tradition.
  • The Christian masculinity promoted by Coughlin is largely militaristic in nature, which in the end is distilled to violence.
  • Far from being something singular and definitive, “Biblical masculinity” is a diverse spectrum of masculinities that ironically counter conspiratorial claims to “real” or “authentic” masculinity.
  • The “values” behind masculine spirituality are often not masculine at all, and are assigned as such only to further the agenda of the conspiracy.
  • The desire to seek balance and complementarity within a conspiratorial understanding of masculine and feminine does little but consolidate that conspiratorial understanding of masculine and feminine.

CONTINUE >>>

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Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm

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